Toodling around on the internet today I read Crunchy Chicken and got tipped off to what is quickly becoming quite a debacle. You might have heard the the folks at Path to Freedom® have trademarked a few terms – some legitimate and others more absurd, such as “urban homestead.” I’ll explain my stance on the issue.
First (and again), the term homestead is loaded with historical traumas. Some things come to mind are manifest destiny. The displacement of Indigenous People by force. Genocide. It is a history of white privilege and power. Current day the term is often seen as a movement of only positive things, such as practical, sustainable and environmentally sound principles. Ignored is the gentrification that often takes place as well as the white dominance of the movement. (Ed. note: I actually don’t know the race/ethnicity/culture of the Dervaes family. I am discussing the term homestead and its past/present use and not the Dervaes in particular.)
I further explained this in my initial post about the term homestead (bolded in this post for emphasis.)
The current “urban homestead movement” is a largely white dominant movement. White folks are the people using the term homestead (and getting book deals and/or media attention,) not people of color. When we white people take up a cause and then label it with a term that is offensive, painful, exclusive and ignorant of the historical implications– we have seriously fucked up. It is the way we re-enact racism and play out micro-aggressions.
Plus, the urban homestead movement and its appeal to white dominant culture through the collective nostalgia for the pioneer days, invisibilizes the urban farming and collective resistance of people of color. There are countless groups, organizations, families and individuals doing phenomenal work, none of whom invoke the word homestead. Will Allen (and Growing Power), 2 Brown Chicks Farm(check out their community based projects!), The People’s Grocery and Clean Greens Farm to name a few. Groups that are very active in food justice, edible gardening, sustainability, equality, outreach and community building.
These are the reasons that I am involved in urban farming/gardening, not to reproduce racism through my use of colonialist discourse. Resistance to terminology such as “homestead” is resisting racist structures (language, history, power, knowledge) which are deeply intertwined with the global capitalist agro-industrial complex.
The Dervaes claim that the move to trademark urban homestead/urban homesteading was to protect their intellectual property and protect the fellow urban homesteaders from big corporations. But in doing so they have ostensibly gone against what they purport to believe in. The cynic in me sees this a capitalist land grab that will make them money selling the rights to the use of the terms. The action of branding a term that is commonly used as an action or lifestyle and includes the word homestead puts them squarely in the ranks of the global capitalist agro-industrial complex that serves to further uphold racist institutions.
So, let’s get to their terms. They outline proper acknowledgement for quoting, etc. that one would ordinarily do to attribute information. That is, of course, fine. However, they go on to say that they own:
numerous trademarks which should be properly acknowledged if used. These protected names and images include the following registered trademarks:
- URBAN HOMESTEAD®
- URBAN HOMESTEADING®
- PATH TO FREEDOM®
- GROW THE FUTURE®
- HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION®
- FREEDOM GARDENS®
- LITTLE HOMESTEAD IN THE CITY® (pending)
- Also, THE TEN ELEMENTS OF URBAN HOMESTEADING copyright has been filed with the Library of Congress.
If your use of one of these phrases is not to specifically identify products or services from the Dervaes Institute, then it would be proper to use generic terms to replace the registered trademark you are using. For example, when discussing general homesteading or other people’s projects, they should be referred to using terms such as ‘modern homesteading,’ ‘urban sustainability projects,’ or similar descriptions.
When using a phrase listed above to refer to the work of the Dervaes Institute, proper trademark usage should include the proper trademark notice [®], use the protected phrase in all capital letters, and note in close proximity that the term is a protected trademark of Dervaes Institute.
Ok, so I can get behind some of that. Path to Freedom®, Homegrown Evolution®, Grow the Future®, Little Homestead in the City® and the Ten Elements of Urban Homesteading©. Those are branding type names they have come up with – company names if you will.
Initially I imagined Laura Ingalls Wilder having a thing or two to say about the name Little Homestead in the City® – a play on words of her popular book Little House on the Prairie. But in talking with the Ladyfriend I realized a deeper complexity. Initially, we have an author capitalizing the genocide and land grabs of manifest destiny and writing her stories of homestead life. A century and half later we have a family capitalizing on a blog by trademarking a name that conjures up images of the book. And so it continues. Meanwhile, my head exploded from the complexity of it all.
And while I don’t and won’t use the term myself, my issue (and that of many others,) is that the act of trademarking the terms urban homestead or urban homesteading is wrong.
Urban homesteading is in no way their intellectual property. They didn’t create the knowledge of urban gardening. Or urban sustainability. People have been doing that since there were urban settings. Yes, the Path to Freedom® family have a business. Yes, they provide information as part of their business. Trademark away what is rightly yours. But they don’t own the ideals. People have been using the term to title their books and describe their homes, their properties, their lifestyles and who they are for a long time.
Perhaps I should run out and trademark Queer. I have a lot of knowledge in that area. I talk to people about it. The politic of it informs much of what I do and how I live my life. “Hi, I’m Meg. I’m Queer®.”
Oh yeah, I forgot. I didn’t invent Queer. Silly me.
Please also check out this post by the folks at Farmcurious for some further investigation!